6 Things Your Kids Will Love at Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg

Ripley’s Aquarium is a sight to behold, but there’s so much more to this Gatlinburg attraction than its impressive visuals. Kids appreciate the aquarium’s abundance of fascinating sea creatures — and the many activities available to grant them an active role in learning about life under the sea. There’s plenty to love about Ripley’s Gatlinburg Aquarium, but your kids will be especially impressed by these features and activities:

Aquarium Sleepovers

Shark swimming at Ripley's Aquarium Gatlinburg

Ripley’s Aquarium gives the term “sleeping with the fishes” a whole new meaning. This overnight adventure surpasses virtually any other aquarium experience in terms of sheer intrigue.

Multiple sleepover opportunities are available. The Sleep with the Sharks option is popular among daring kids fascinated by the ocean’s fiercest animals. The fun begins with a diving show, followed by a variety of different underwater-themed activities. No sleepover would be complete without a pizza party; kids will enjoy chowing down before embarking on a unique scavenger hunt. After they’ve rested near the sharks, kids will wrap the event with breakfast before receiving a certificate outlining their aquarium accomplishments.

If your little ones aren’t particularly chummy with sharks, Ripley’s PJ Party with Penguins will be more to their liking. Despite the hosts being dressed in their finest tuxedos, children are encouraged to bring their pajamas to this one-of-a-kind slumber party. After a restful night’s sleep, kids will get to interact with their new penguin friends.

Touch a Ray Bay

Kids at play with Stingrays at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg

Get up close and personal with one of Ripley’s most fascinating creatures at the Touch a Ray Bay. Experts are on hand to make sure your child’s experience is as smooth and stress-free as possible. Take the excitement up a notch with a memorable swimming expedition; if equipped with a suit, your kids can hop into the water with the rays in the Splash with the Stingrays adventure. The aquarium will provide brave swimmers with towels for drying off and shirts to help them show off their latest accomplishment.

Penguin Encounter

Penguins at Ripley's Aquarium Gatlinburg

Penguins are universally beloved by kids and adults alike. Who doesn’t enjoy witnessing their lighthearted antics, adorable waddle, and keen fashion sense? If you and your kids are ready to spend more time with Ripley’s feathered friends, don’t hesitate to get in on the Penguin Encounter.

Ripley’s penguin experts will fill you and your loved ones in on everything you want to know about these flightless friends. This is not a “look, but don’t touch” type of adventure; petting is one of the highlights of this opportunity. Pose for pictures with your new buddies or take part in a special painting experience in which your artistic penguin friend creates a piece that will look amazing on your walls at home.

Shark Lagoon

Kids walking through Shark Lagoon

Photo: @elove259

Take a journey under the sea on a 340-foot long glidepath, where you’ll encounter all of your favorite underwater animals. Don’t let the name fool you, however: the Shark Lagoon offers more to witness than sharks alone. You and your kids will also observe green moray eels, tarpons, and sea turtles. That being said, the sharks are definitely the stars of the show. Your kids will be especially impressed by the sand tiger sharks, which weigh in at nearly 400 pounds. By viewing these majestic creatures from an underwater perspective, young participants will gain a better sense for how sharks lead their lives under the surface.

Turtle Time

Get a behind-the-scenes look at Ripley’s Aquarium while you spend some quality time with Sally — one of the aquarium’s biggest stars. If you’ve ever wondered what, exactly, turtles eat, you’ll find out quickly once you witness Sally scarf down her favorite meal: lettuce. Despite her senior citizen status (Sally is over 70 years old), this terrific turtle still finds plenty of time and energy to mingle with her adoring fans. The Turtle Time experience also includes a tour of the husbandry department and a cool peek into one of Sally’s training sessions. These opportunities are bound to fascinate kids and adults alike.

Mermaids Dive

Who says mermaids aren’t real? That’s certainly not the case at Ripley’s Aquarium, where the Mermaids Dive live shows are a clear fan favorite. Your children will be astounded by Ripley’s beautiful mermaids and their graceful movements. Be sure to arrive early, as space fills up fast — and the last thing you want is to deal with a disappointed mermaid fan. Meet and greet experiences are available, as is the opportunity to snap a photo with Ripley’s stunning mermaids.

There’s no excuse for boredom at Ripley’s Aquarium, where sharks, penguins, and even mermaids bring the beauty and whimsy of the ocean to life. Make memories by attending a few of the attraction’s most unique experiences — you won’t regret it.